What started out as 7 freelancers working for a local telecommunications company in Western Highlands Province, wanting to earn an extra income on the side, has turned into the 611 Integrated Farmers Association; an Integrated Farm that the self-styled entrepreneurs are slowly working towards getting registered.
“It started from an idea to help each other make some extra money. We agreed amongst ourselves to contribute K700 each as seed capital with the aim to generate money and grow our capital,” Team Leader Mr. Zakkhiaus William said.
“We changed the name of our little business venture from 611 Cooperative Society to the current name 611 Integrated Farmers Association just this month. We felt that this new name will fit well with the idea and the projects that will be initiated,” Mr William added.
The members of the 611 Integrated Farmers Association have now started an Integrated Farm Project which includes poultry and livestock farming, vegetable farming, the planting of 1000 native trees, floriculture and the planting of different species of flowers and bee and mushroom farming.
“This initiative is mainly to build a simple but realistic pathway so simple village people can be employed so they can earn their own money to sustain their livelihoods and give back to their respective communities.”
“The main project site is in my area, in Komkui, Mopri Warakatim, Mt Hagen, WHP, where I have given up 5 hectares of my own land for this project.”
“I am currently building up the structures needed to run an Integrated Farm with a duck shed and chicken coop. I have also engaged disadvantaged youths in my area to help with the clearing of the land for this project and also to help with planting as well,” Mr William said.
“From our initial contribution of seed capital, we were able to raise some money from selling produce from our small gardens and we continued to contribute and save up.”
“Other people came to know of what we were doing and joined. We initiated another chicken project, made up of 13 people.”
“We contributed K105 each to buy 13 stock feed to give to each individual. That’s a total of K1365 we gave to each individual to start his/her chicken project.”
“With that project going, we advised members to go into vegetables farming. We had to hire land and work the land to plant crops, for 3 rounds and after that gave the land back to the owner.”
“We have started a potato project up in Rondon, where FPDA fresh produce development agency gave us 9000 E2 seedlings. We will harvest next month, where we have engaged local boys to help.”
“Also, to save cost, we are not buying seeds from the shops but rather, buying vegetables and fruits at the local markets and saving the seeds, to germinate and replant.”
Despite 611 Integrated Farmers Association being unregistered, they have seen great success, with building up their integrated farm and finances, to be able to register their Association and go into a formal way of doing business.
“Once we are registered, we will do up our business portfolio and present to business houses to provide fresh produce and protein to restaurants, shops and catering companies,” Zakkhiaus said.
With the ever increasing prices in services and especially food items, the team leader of the 611 Integrated Farmers Association believes small time fresh producers and local farmers, can help alleviate the cost of food in the country.
“So much is spent on imported food; a cost that is then transferred to consumers. The government should invest more into agriculture, as local farmers do alot of work on the ground and we have the potential to provide to the market demand for food, at a low cost,” Zakkhiaus concludes.